Hey I’m Josh Hawkins, this is episode 136 of Opening Up the Gospels. Since Episode 125, I’ve been looking at the last night of Jesus’ life before His crucifixion in April of 29AD. We’ve looked at the Passover meal in the upper room sometimes called the “Last Supper”, then we looked at the journey to the Garden of Gethsemane through the Temple, His prayer in the Garden, and then his arrest by a large crowd of Roman soldiers and Temple guards. In the last episode I talked about John’s record of Jesus’ journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to the house of Annas. Jesus had willingly given Himself over to the mob and was swiftly escorted back up to the city, off the streets, and behind the closed doors of the house of the most powerful Jew in Jerusalem at the time. They wanted to draw as little attention as possible to what they were doing, because there was no shred of legality to it whatsoever. It would have been very late in the evening, perhaps close to or after midnight, and the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, would need to be awakened so that this Jesus figure could finally be dealt with once and for all. Now John doesn’t detail what happened in the house of Annas, but we do know that he would soon be sending Jesus to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest at the time. Let’s read from John 18:
"The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas [had] sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest."
(John 18:19–24 ESV)
Now I developed this in the last episode, but verse 24 I believe is best translated “Annas had sent him bound to Caiaphas”. The complementary nature of John’s Gospel is seen in this passage as he is the only one that records this particular scene. I believe these verses record a private interview that Caiaphas had with Jesus before He is more openly accused before the larger group of the Jewish authorities, as the other Gospels record. Why? Well, there’s a few reasons. First, I believe this is a private meeting because what John records here bears no resemblance at all to the other Gospels in the corporate inquisition of Jesus. The details are completely different. Second, if we realize that there is no legality whatsoever to what the Jews were doing in capturing Jesus and charging Him with something, it would make sense that there’s some staging going on. I believe Caiaphas wanted to get a sense for what Jesus was like privately, in order to know how to indict Him most effectively before the entire Sanhedrin. He wanted to seal a negative opinion of Him in all of them, because remember, the opinion of the Sanhedrin was not altogether sealed concerning Jesus. Some dissented and didn’t necessarily like Him, but they didn’t know they wanted him to die. Thirdly, there would have been a delay in getting the whole Sanhedrin to the house of Caiaphas. This has to be real to us. It wasn’t like the whole Sanhedrin was hanging out at Caiaphas’ house at midnight during the Passover feast, just waiting for Jesus to suddenly arrive so they could all condemn him. Caiaphas couldn’t just call them or text them to come to his house - people had to go to each member’s house to wake them and call them to come quickly. But this wasn’t a 5 minute process. So this is why I believe John is complementing the other accounts with this private interview. Does that make sense?
Now before we look at the text again, let’s take a look at a map. Jesus had been sent from the house of Annas, likely somewhere here in this wealthy residential area near the Hasmonean Palace, to the house of Caiaphas, which we know was here. This large dwelling had a courtyard where the Gospels say that Peter and others were warming themselves by a fire. It’s here where Jesus is privately interrogated by Caiaphas and then held until as many of the Sanhedrin that is able to be woken up at such a late hour arrives. And then as we’ll see, there’s yet another gathering of the full Sanhedrin at daybreak.
Ok, so let’s talk about the scene from John 18. The Gospels don’t tell us exactly where this private inquisition would have taken place inside the home of Caiaphas, but I think we can probably safely picture it as a relatively small, private room perhaps next to the hall or larger chamber where the Sanhedrin was going to meet. Perhaps Caiaphas was in the room along with several of his personal officers as he began to ask Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. On this particular night, Caiaphas probably would have been clothed in the elaborate wardrobe of the high priest not only because it was the Passover, but because he was about to host a gathering of the Sanhedrin. This wardrobe was maybe not exactly as the Old Testament describes, because it probably had evolved a bit since the time of Moses. But undoubtedly it was elaborate. And now picture it - before him is Jesus, with absolutely no pomp in his outward appearance, perhaps weary and tired if anything else, since He likely hasn’t eaten or drank anything since the Passover meal in the upper room with His disciples hours earlier. Think back to His agony in the Garden, His arrest, and His journey back into the city, His stop at Annas’ house, and now Caiaphas’ house. There He is, the promised Messiah and God in the flesh, in the simple dress of a carpenter from Galilee, bound with Roman chains, standing before the leader of the Jewish nation. Oh, and the reality of Jesus, just in the sense of Him as the true High Priest, as the book of Hebrews says, is having this little man hurl insults at Him. Oh, what a contrast and what a juxtaposition! This gets more and more difficult to bear as the narrative goes on. But the glory and majesty of Jesus is magnified even more. Well, let’s look back at the verse again:
"The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”"
(John 18:19–21 ESV)
Caiaphas begins his questioning by asking Jesus about what He taught, and who followed Him. Jesus responds, but doesn’t really answer Caiaphas’ question directly. He doesn’t say a thing about His disciples, ensuring that they would remain safe and that the rage of the Jewish authorities would be solely directed at Him for the time being. His words also indicate that He denies any secret agenda or secret plotting against the Jewish authorities. He’s not saying that He never had any private conversations with people, but that He was not two-faced or intentionally deceptive in what He did say. He tells Caiaphas that He and the Jewish authorities had so many opportunities to get the answer to his question. Why? Jesus spoke openly in some of the most public places, including the Temple, which the High Priest was in charge of. It’s so beautiful to see this - Jesus’ words come across as a verbal challenge to the authority of Caiaphas, and also show that He is not threatened in any way by him. He’s just so composed, so assured, so confident. Official Jewish trials demanded witnesses, and so Jesus exposed the illegality of what was transpiring even more by His answer, as He essentially asked Caiaphas for witnesses. He was confronting Caiaphas directly, and so one of his assistants slapped Him in the face. Let’s continue reading from John 18:
"When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”"
(John 18:22–23 ESV)
So the officer who slapped Jesus basically demanded Him to be more humble in answering Caiaphas. But Jesus is the most humble man who has ever lived - oh if only he had known that “creator” and “sustainer of all life” was on His resume, the officer might be acting a little differently toward Him. Jesus responds to him by calling him to be a witness himself to how Jesus said something wrong. If Jesus was correct in seeking witnesses for a legal trial, then the officer would have to answer himself as to why he struck Jesus. Again, this entire proceeding is completely illegal, which is so ironic - the Pharisees and Jewish authorities claimed complete obedience to the Law, yet now are not being fair and just whatsoever.
As I bring this episode to a close today, I want to summarize Jesus’ steps for you after He was captured in the garden. We’ll be adding to this list over the next several episodes. First, Jesus is escorted from the Garden by the Romans and the Temple guards to the house of Annas where He is held briefly. Only John records this. Then, Jesus is escorted to the house of Caiaphas. Caiaphas didn’t know what Jesus was going to be like, so he sizes Him up to get material to indict Him before the rest of the Sanhedrin. Only John records this as well. And third, Jesus will appear before some of the Sanhedrin in the early morning hours, at least according to our modern reckoning. Matthew and Mark record this, Luke just mentions it briefly, and John doesn’t say anything about it at all.
Jesus’ first meeting with some members of the Sanhedrin is what we’ll look at in the next episode. In the meantime, you can find all the past episodes in this series on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. Be sure to share these on social media if they’ve been encouraging to you as well. God bless, and come back next time.